Walt Disney World Resort Update for January 20-25, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for January 20-25, 2021

 Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)

Today, January 20, 2021, is the day that the United States of America inaugurates its 46th President, Joe Biden. Yesterday, I visited Magic Kingdom for the first time in 2021, and was surprised that The Hall of Presidents was still operating. I say surprised because, when I visited on January 18, 2017, The Hall had already closed for (what turned out to be a long) refurbishment for installation of the 45th President, Donald Trump. When I asked a cast member at the attraction's door whether The Hall will be open today, he told me that there had been no announcement. As I finalize the Update just before our usual publication time of 3 a.m. Eastern/12 a.m. Pacific, I see that My Disney Experience now lists The Hall of Presidents as currently closed for refurbishment.

On January 18, 2017, The Hall of Presidents closed for installation of the new show surrounding the January 20, 2017 innauguration of Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States. File Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

It remains my strong belief that it was a mistake to ever have sitting U.S. Presidents speaking in the Hall in a theme park where we leave Today behind and enter the worlds of Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy. As I wrote in the last Update for 2020, I hope, the next refurbishment corrects this nearly two decade long mistake by doing no more than acknowledging the present, and leaving the speaking roles to the Presidents of America's past that the consensus of park guests (and historians) view as great: Lincoln and Washington. That's the extent of our political coverage here in the Update: how the politics of today impacts a visit to Disney Parks.

Meanwhile, as Adrienne-Vincent Phoenix reported over the past week along with lots of other media outles, and again in yesterday's Disneyland Resort Update, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the inability to reopen the Disneyland Resort in California, Disneyland has ended its Annual Pass program in its current form. It is considering how a new program may be offered in the future, and, as an only occasional visitor to the other coast, I will not speculate on what that will look like. I note it here, however, because Walt Disney World Resort has maintained its Annual Pass program with the phased reopening of the Resort, but it has not resumed sales of NEW Annual Passes and has modified some of the benefits Passholders enjoy since the temporary closures occurred back in March. As readers (and those impacted) may recall, Disney did offer prorated refunds to Passholders that did not want to continue to hold a Pass to visit during the phased reopening, and extended the expiration date of Passes for those that did not cancel (the extension added additional months for the months the parks were closed and an additional month to at least some pass types for those that did not cancel). Active Passholders at Walt Disney World Resort are still able to renew them (but, obviously, they will not be able to obtain the 2-coast Disney Premier Passport).

The future of the Walt Disney World Annual Passport Program is not clear at this time, but it is unlikely to end as Disneyland's has given that the Florida parks continue to operate and likely will continue to do so. It is also important to keep in mind that, though Disneyland has strived to become an international vacation destination like its younger but much bigger East Coast sibling, Disneyland's guests have tended to be local or regional. Certainly, its Passholder-base historically has been much more weighted to locals than Walt Disney World. Indeed, many Disney Vacation Club Members purchase Walt Disney World Annual Passes of one kind or another; I was a Passholder living in Chicago for many more years than I've lived in Central Florida. When Disneyland resumes park operations at any level, I can imagine that the crush of local Passholders would be unmanageable on a whole lot of levels that could not be solved like the Florida Resort has by limiting the number of AP reservation slots available at each park each day in the Disney Park Pass system.

With the winter Holiday Season passed, and the brief typical uptick in crowd size over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend over, I decided the nearly 70° forecast Tuesday in January could be a fairly quiet day to visit Magic Kingdom as a local Annual Passholder. I made my Disney Park Pass reservation on Monday. Don't let the photo fool you, however: operating attractions in the afternoon on Tuesday generally had standby times between 30 and 60 minutes. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

For those considering a visit, remember, Walt Disney World Resort's phased reopening includes health and safety protocols: mandatory guest temperature checks, limited park capacity requiring guest use of the Disney Park Pass System to reserve a park visit (plus a valid ticket - and limited hours for park hopping for those with that benefit), heightened cleaning especially of high-touch areas, physical distancing, and enforced mandatory face coverings (except when eating and/or drinking while stationary and physically distanced from others not in your party). Be sure to check the My Disney Experience or DisneyWorld.com immediately before any planned visit for any last minute changes to phased reopening operations that may impact your visit.

Views From the "NEW" Magic Kingdom-Disney's Grand Floridian Resort Walkway

Way back in the 1990s, Walt Disney World Resort announced it was building a walkway all around Seven Seas Lagoon. It was even promoting paver stones that guests could "sponsor" that would be used to create this walkway. Those Walk Around the World pavers were, indeed, installed, but only from the Transportation and Ticket Center to Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and again around the entrance to Magic Kingdom. A walkway was not constructed connecting Grand Floridian with Magic Kingdom nor from the TTC to Disney's Contemporary Resort.

Fast forward to 2019, Walt Disney World announced the retirement of the Walk Around the World pavers as part of the reimagined entry experience from the TTC to Magic Kingdom. About the same time that work got underway, the Resort finally started constructing the bridges and pathways necessary to finally connect walkways at the entrance to Magic Kingdom with Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. Late last year, the work was completed, and guests can now walk all the way from main parking at the TTC to Magic Kingdom and back. Yesterday, I finally made my first ever walk from Magic Kingdom to Disney's Grand Floridian (and completed the walk all the way back to my car from there that I have taken many times over the years).

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

As the long-existing Walkway around Seven Seas Lagoon continues, the on-going refurbishment at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort comes into view. The Disney Vacation Club accommodations at the Resort and some of the other facilities there remain open. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

New Passenger Compartment Physical Distancing Aboard Some of the Monorail Trains

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Views Around Magic Kingdom

Main Street Station is once again behind a construction scrim. It would not be surprising if this refurbishment is related to the park's upcoming 50th Anniversary. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Characters Around the Park

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Cinderella's Coach (without the princess) is available for a Disney PhotoPass photo opportunity in Fantasyland. It has been a non-character photo opportunity around New Year's Eve for quite a few years (this year, for the first time in many years, I did not personally visit Magic Kingdom at year-end, so I am not sure when it was set up). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Rivers of America Refurbishment Continues

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Reminder: 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets Now Available

As we covered as the year began, Disney launched its 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Ticket. The $199 plus tax ticket provides four days of park visits. The ticket can be used on consecutive or non-consecutive days through June 18, 2021 (but not at all on January 16-18, February 13-15, March 26-April 11, or May 28-31). The Park Hopper option can be added for $42.50/ticket plus tax.

There is also a 3-Day version (with same blockout dates) available for $179 plus tax (add $42.50/ticket plus tax for Park Hopper).

A 2-Day version is available to purchase and use only through March 11 (but not January 16-18 or February 13-15) for $149/tax (add $37.50/ticket plus tax for Park Hopper).

Like other ticket types, guests must also separately make Disney Park Pass reservations for a specific park each date they wish to use a Discover Disney Ticket (and, for Park Hopper, must visit that reserved park and may only Hop when that day's window opens subject to capacity).

This & That…

…In early February, "The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure" will debut as a new exhibit inside The American Adventure pavilion at EPCOT. It will feature Joe Gardner from the recently released Disney-Pixar movie Soul which is now available to subscribers on the Disney+ streaming service.

Walt Disney Imagineering's Carmen Smith discusses the new exhibit debuting in February at The American Adventure pavilion at EPCOT. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

…Spice Road Table at EPCOT has a new menu of Small Plate Mediterranean offerings. Read more details on Disney Parks Blog. Unfortunately, Tangerine Cafe, the quick service location at Morocco pavilion remains closed.

…And speaking of EPCOT, some of the construction walls around the new plaza at France pavilion leading to Remy's Ratatouille Adventure came down this weekend, and now provide access to the new restrooms in that area. If you would like to know a bit more about the new details that can be seen in this area of the park, Orlando Sentinel shares what its Dewayne Bevil spotted so far. While now expected to open in 2021, there has still been no date announced for the attraction's opening or the new food locations in and around the area where the walls have been removed.

…Free whiskey with purchase? Yes, next Monday, January 25, is National Irish coffee Day and Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant at Disney Springs is celebrating with a special offer for its traditional Coffee: "You buy the coffee, the whiskey is on us!" Other coffee-based cocktails are also on the menu every day at Raglan Road which is now serving daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

…The Baby Boy Rhino born at Disney's Animal Kingdom this past October has been named Ranger in honor of wildlife rangers who protect the species around the world. Ranger's mom, Kendi, and her pregnancy were featured on the Disney+ original series "Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom" which is still available for viewing by Disney+ subscribers.

The rhino keeper team at Disney's Animal Kingdom put together a video of Ranger's first milestones and revealing his name. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

…The Disney children's hospitals program is bringing a little magic and joy to three Central Florida children's hospitals. AdventHealth for Children, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Nemours Children's Hospital have officially introduced Disney's program elements into their hospital experience including interactive play spaces, whimsical murals, care packages and more that bring beloved Disney stories to life and provide moments of joy and inspiration to seriously ill children and their families. The reimagined spaces will positively impact thousands of children and families in Central Florida and beyond, and they are just one part of Disney's overall focus to deliver magic in children's hospitals around the globe.

…The first release of Disney nuiMOs plush featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Stitch and Angel plus outfits and accessories was yesterday, January 19, 2021. Originally lunched in Disney stores in Japan and China, Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland, these plush characters get their name from the Japanese words nuigurumi meaning plush, and moderu meaning model. As the launch of the outfits and accessories shows, they're meant to be customizable "to be an extension of one's self with the flexibility to change one's looks to suit their unique personality and taste." More new accessories, outfits and plush will be released on the first Monday of each month, beginning February 1, including co-brands with Loungefly, Spirit Jersey, Ashley Eckstein, Disney Artist Wes Jenkins and more. Releases are available on shopDisney.com, Disney stores and at Walt Disney World Resort. They continue to be available at Disney stores in Japan, Shanghai Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland. They will be coming to Downtown Disney District at Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris at a later date.

Celebrity stylist Maeve Reily created four signature Disney nuiMOs looks for Mickey and Minnie for the launch. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

…REMINDER: Disney Vacation Club Members that book 4-night or more room reservations for arrivals through September 25, 2021, that also buy a non-discounted 4-day Walt Disney World theme park ticket will receive 2 extra days added to your ticket. The offer is valid for number of guests on Member’s eligible room reservation and the park tickets must be purchased in advance through Member Services. Like many DVC offers, this one requires that the Member be eligible for Membership Extras (own at least a specified number of points purchased directly from DVC as of a certain date). The park tickets will be valid for admission beginning on date selected as start date and must be used within a limited number of days, depending on ticket length and type. And, of course, until further notice, Disney Park Pass reservations are still required for the dates Members and their guests plan to use their tickets, and those reservations remain limited and subject to availability.

…Disney Vacation Club also unveiled its new 30th anniversary logo and its newest line of customizable merchandise. It is available on shopDisney.com.

…REMINDER: Like the DVC ticket offer, as Disney Parks Blog announced, guests can receive two additional days park admission when they buy a non-discounted four-night/three-day room and ticket package at select Disney Resort hotels for arrivals most nights January 8 through September 25, 2021. Details are published on this page of DisneyWorld.com. (See more from our friends at Get Away Today below. Remember, that offer applies to non-discounted hotel stays; separately, Annual Passholders can save up to 40% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights January 3 through April 17, 2021; and there are also some remaining 35% discount opportunities for the general public for the same time period.

…Walt Disney World Golf will offer a series of four-week Junior Golf Clinics this February and March led by its PGA of America Pros. Clinics will be held on Wednesdays, Fridays or Saturdays at Disney's Palm, Magnolia and Oak Trail golf courses. For more information, visit the Walt Disney World Golf Blog.

…The new Portillo's restaurant featuring Chicago-style Hot Dogs and Italian Beef sandwiches and more opening in Lake Buena Vista on March 2 is now hiring. Visit Portillos.com/careers or visit the nearby Residence Inn, 11450 Marbella Palm Court, Orlando, FL 32836, through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for an open interview session.

…And congratulations to Give Kids the World Village on its January 17 reopening and getting back to fulfilling its mission of serving critically ill children and their families.

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Resorts Availability, Ticket Advice & Special Offers

Note: MousePlanet does not edit past Updates to reflect price increases; for up-to-date prices, check the most recent Walt Disney World Resort Update.

Disney Resort Hotel reservations are available throughout 2021, and our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages. Get Away Today can also assist you with the new Walt Disney World Resort offer we mentioned several times over the last few weeks that became available January 5: two free theme park days when you purchase at least a 4-night Disney Hotel stay and 3-Day Walt Disney World Resort tickets (the new offer is valid for vacation packages for travel through September 25, 2021, and does not apply to ticket-only orders). For all theme park ticket holders (day guests, resort guests, and Annual Passholders), though, for the foreseeable future, all guests are required to use the Disney Parks Pass System to reserve dates for guest park visits in addition to having a valid admission.

Get Away Today can help you book Disney's latest promotional offers

Get Away Today can also help you book other discounted Disney hotel stays for travel in 2021, including the continuing 35% discount on Disney Hotels for travel through April 17, 2021, which may be the better option for some guests traveling this spring. With Get Away Today's complimentary Price Monitoring, any time a special comes out, it will automatically price check it for each of its guests. If the new special is better, it will automatically apply the new savings and let the guest know. If it's not a better deal, we will leave everything as is, and keep our eyes peeled for future promotions that could save guests more.

You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here. You can also call 855-GET-AWAY during regular business hours (Monday - Friday 9am-5pm MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!

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Only purchase Disney theme park tickets directly from Disney, an authorized seller, or a travel agency like MousePlanet travel partner Get Away Today!.As always, we remind our readers that Walt Disney World Resort theme park tickets are rarely offered at deep discounts unless you are a resident of Florida or eligible for U.S. Military Personnel benefits. Historically, non-Florida residents tend to benefit the most by purchasing tickets in advance (and, of course, being mindful of the rules relevant to those tickets). Don't get scammed! Never buy tickets from an unofficial or secondary outlet, such as through eBay or Craigslist. Never rent or purchase tickets from people approaching you outside Disney property stating they have remaining days or leftover tickets. This practice is against the terms of use for Walt Disney World Theme Park admissions, and may result in denial of entry. There is no way to determine if these tickets are valid until you try to use them to enter the parks.

Be sure to check out Get Away Today's Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.